A Winter Park professional gets to know the artist–grandfather he never met by collecting the man’s illustrations.
|Chris Raleigh has a collection of his grandfather’s works at home|
Chris Raleigh never met his paternal grandfather, but he has spent the last 20 years getting to know him as a legendary illustrator for such magazines as the The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar.
Henry Patrick Raleigh, born in 1880, was known for his illustrations of serialized stories and spent much of his life in New York City high society. Having started his career in San Francisco, illustrating fires, hangings and other dramatic events for The Examiner newspaper, he moved on to magazines and books. His profile grew considerably in 1916 when he illustrated a series of stories for H.G. Wells.
“He was one of the top illustrators in The Saturday Evening Post, which was the top market for illustrators of that time,” says Walt Reed, founder of Illustration House gallery in New York City and author of Great American Illustrators. “He had a distinct style based on his news work.”
Like his paternal grandfather, Chris Raleigh has put his own creative stamp on his life’s work. A Winter Park-based interior designer, Raleigh has worked on such notable projects as the Pleasure Island Jazz Company, Lombardi’s Landing and, perhaps best known of all his efforts, the Hard Rock Café in Orlando, with its 340-foot-long Stratocaster guitar.
Raleigh, 62, began seriously researching his grandfather’s work in the late 1980s. In 1989, right before he was to marry, Illustration House in New York offered to sell him roughly a dozen of Henry Raleigh’s works. Facing impending wedding costs, he regretfully declined.
However, his secretary sent out notes to every wedding guest telling them of the collection. On their wedding day, Raleigh and his wife were surprised with a collection of Henry Raleigh’s work. After that, the grandson was hooked.
“I started looking everywhere for Henry Raleighs,” Raleigh says. “It also made me reconnect with all the family members I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
He currently has more than 100 illustrations and the magazine stories connected to about 75 percent of those illustrations. Still, all of that is a drop in the bucket considering Henry Raleigh had 20,000 published works to his name by age 50.
All this inspired Chris Raleigh to write a book. He says it will be heavy with his grandfather’s art, and it also will incorporate the life of the man he so admires but knows only by reputation.
“Hearing about my grandfather, it gave me a very strong work ethic. He was a perfectionist,” Raleigh says. “During the Depression he accumulated vast amounts of money and fame—a rare combination for an artist.”